Looking to 2050: Our readers pitch in

The Reporter reached out to some of our neighborhoods civic and non-profit leaders to get their thoughts on what Dorchester's 'green' transformation might look like. Here are some of the responses:

Dorchester will be a more important place to live

Bill Walczak: Savin Hill resident is co-founder and executive director of Codman Square Health CenterBill Walczak: Savin Hill resident is co-founder and executive director of Codman Square Health CenterForty-one years ago, many of the things I currently depend on didn’t exist -- cell phones, the Internet, e-mail. You wrote letters to family members and mailed them with a stamp if they lived far away, because the cost of long distance telephony was exorbitant. On the other hand, we drove cars that looked and acted about the same, and lived in houses that generally are the same, though as I remember, every other house was painted brown with cream trim.

On the other hand, we all believed that, by 2000, our cars would fly through the air, we’d push buttons and get our meals served by robots, and live in houses in the clouds, or maybe Mars. I say this to point out that we have not had many Nostradamuses in our midst in the past 41 years.

That being said, I’ve enjoyed predicting the future, and wrote a piece on what 2020 would look like for the Reporter back in 1999. 2050 has the additional benefit of my not having to eat my words if I’m wrong, since I very likely won’t be around.

So here are my predictions:

My first comment on Dorchester’s future is that it will become a more important place to live. The era of spreading out into the countryside is over. The future will be more compact and dense, because it will need to be. If you want to see the future, take a look at the new Chinese cities along its coast, or Vancouver. The residents of future Dorchester will need to fight to keep the density of its housing as low as it is, and I would guess that there will be new development along the major arteries and transit lines that will add thousands of people to the neighborhood.

I would guess that we would recognize the houses and vehicles we use in 2050 as what they are, but I do think there will be differences. I’d guess that Dorchester’s housing stock will look similar in 2050, though I’d also guess that the covering of the houses will change. As the earth heats up, we will need new materials to build with that are more efficient in dealing with the environment. In fact, I would guess it will be required, as government re-writes building codes to lower the use of carbon fuels.

Nobody will use red cedar (or vinyl) shingles or clapboards in 2050. Rather, we will use composite materials that look like wood but carry high insulation value, and do not need to be painted, ever. Some will contain solar power elements that will transmit the energy of the sun into the house’s electrical panel. Satellite dish antennae will no longer be visible; they will be built into the roofing material that goes on the house. This material will also absorb the sun’s energy in the winter and transmit it into the house, and will repel the heat in the summer. New windows will also do the same. I’d guess that we’ll see a lot more windmills, and probably other towers as well. We’ll also see walls built along the coastlines, to prevent storms from washing away our city.

I would guess that our personal accessories will continue to get smaller and do more things. The phone will become the everything tool, replacing, or rather becoming the computer of the future. I would guess that voice will be the main way in which people communicate, so we won’t need keyboards, even virtual ones. I would hope that public transit will be the predominant way for travel, but I’d guess that people will still have personal means of transport, though I’d guess that they will be small, electric, and very fuel efficient.

Lastly, I would guess that our generation will be looked on with puzzlement. Historians of the future will look on our era as one that wasted resources and unnecessarily polluted the planet. People will go to museums and look at amazement at the cars we drove, and the primitive and complicated things we used to communicate.

-Bill Walczak, Savin Hill/Codman Square

Flying green cars, and solar bikes

In 2050 I think our greatest scientists will be hard at work designing technologies to create flying cars that run on alternative sources of energy. Most of our homes will be equipped with solar panels and our communities will all have their own windmills to convert wind into energy. And instead of asking for the traditional bike, all kids will be asking their parents for the latest solar bicycle. Public transit options will ,of course, be more plentiful and greener with extended trolley services through Dorchester and Mattapan. We won’t have gas stations anymore; instead we will have stations offering many different varieties of fuels and other energies to power the cars of tomorrow.

-Congressman Michael Capuano

Dot green and greener

Dorchester is already a ‘green’ community. Lots of folks walk to neighborhood restaurants and businesses—and the subway takes us quickly and easily where we want to go. So, I see more of that, more electric vehicles and scooters, maybe more of our power will come from other sources as well—small sized wind turbines and highly efficient solar panels and devices. I can also see more ‘urban’ gardeners—perhaps enough to supply local farmer’s markets. (The Food Project=wildly successful!)

A perfect summer day for a Dorchester family might include a visit to a local farmer’s market, a walk to and swim at Savin Hill Beach, and then dinner at Donovan’s. No need to get in a motorized vehicle.

Then, home to a house powered by solar panels with supplemental energy supplied by local wind turbines. This family will water their own garden with collected rainwater and will be diligent in monitoring their water use (smart meters will help—both on water use and energy use), of course fertilizer for the garden will be provided by their own composting bin. The air will be clean—asthma rates will decline because diesel trains, buses and trucks will be a thing of the past.

This doesn’t even sound far-fetched—some of this already describes my day!

-Rosemary J. Powers, chief of staff, Department of Environmental Protection, and a Savin Hill resident

Dorchester may be blue, not green, by 2050

I don’t have a great deal of vision about this. I actually think that there is a good chance that it will start to get blue by then instead of “green.” I have read a good deal (too much?) about the potential effects of global warming on sea levels lately. I found a number of articles written by numerous mainstream scientists that paint a much gloomier picture than the one given by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when it comes to sea-level rises. The IPCC reports, predicting from a few inches to a couple of feet of sea level rise by 2100, are only taking into consideration sea water expansion; not glacier melt which is a much more consequential, if less predictable event.

IPCC final reports are written as collaboration between scientist and diplomats from various countries. It’s as much a political endeavor as a scientific one. Most of these diplomats come from rich (i.e. highly fossil fuel dependent) countries, so they push really hard to tone the actual risks.

A rapid melting of the entire Greenland ice sheet (somewhat likely to happen within a few decades, according to numerous earth scientists) would raise global sea levels by about 20 feet. A good chunk of Dorchester is under 20 feet of elevation, so…

And that’s before we look at the Antarctic ice sheet; there is a lot more ice seating above land down there, but it’s not expected to melt quite as fast.

-Vivian Girard, president of Five Streets Neighborhood Association, and a resident of Fields Corner

Green is just around the corner

The year 2050 is not that far away. I see solar panels on our houses, wind turbines along the shore, and 100 percent recycling. Dare I say a functional public transportation system resulting in far less dependency on individual motor vehicles? We’ll also need increased resources for our parks and more locations for people to recreate in safe places.

Basically, our homes need to become more green, as do our workspaces and our modes of transportation. I would love to be able to ride my bike on the streets of Dorchester, but there are far too many obstacles preventing me from doing this. Sorry DotBike folks!!
And farmers’ markets and locally grown healthy, affordable, nutritious foods. Oh, to have it year round and not just in the summer and early fall!

I could go on and on.

—Davida Andelman, director of Lead Action Collaborative and a Bowdoin-Geneva resident

A clean Neponset flows through it

In the summer of 2050, every afternoon will be a vacation in Dorchester and Mattapan. We won’t need a long trip down to the Cape but a short walk to the Neponset River where our (grand)kids will splash around in the clean cool water. I’ll be a spry 77 and still desperately trying to stay in shape, but luckily we will have a community boat center on the river where we can get a great green workout in by paddling around in kayaks and canoes.

After my workout, I know I’ll be hungry, real hungry. Thankfully, our restaurants will thrive with outdoor seating on our widened sidewalks. I’ll hop from spot to spot, a spring roll here, some kabobs there, a cheeseburger everywhere, all made with fresh meat and produce from our nearby farms.

After chowing down, I’ll swipe my Charlie Card at the corner to rent a bike and pedal down our expanded bike paths on our nearly car-free streets.

And why will our streets be nearly car free? Because the Fairmount Line will be a thriving success! We will have clean, beautiful, safe stations (that the suburbs will envy) where quiet, non-noise-polluting trains will bring us into South Station in 10 minutes, even on the weekend! With Dorchester and Mattapan residents falling in love with effective public transportation, traffic will be just a bad memory of the 20th century in our clean green community! Somebody get me a boat!

— State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, chairman of the committee on community development and small business, and a Lower Mills resident

Green jobs – a holistic solution

Green solutions to community problems are a holistic approach to living: mind, body, and soul. The first environment that we must take care of is the most immediate one; our body. Most major religions say to treat our bodies as a temple, so we know smoking, drinking, and excessive fatty foods are out.

But many African-Americans say that access to quality food, products, and businesses mean driving long distances and paying double what they might normally spend. I don’t believe that is fair.

We must first rebuild our communities with knowledge of self as well as these disparities. Green Jobs also better the community and empower people doing the work.

In a world where sea levels are rising and more and more diseases and cancers are affecting our communities, we must address poverty and our environment together. For too long have we relied on quick fixes.
I’m not neither an environmental nut nor a green technology expert, but I believe that green thinking can solve both these glaring problems.

In most inner cities you see a growing gap between rich and poor and a shrinking middle class. With the cost of food and energy going up along with earth’s population, no longer can we address problems with quick solutions. We need permanent ones.

What I would love to see is a city that embraces green as a solution to community problems. Violence and crime are always found in areas with few opportunities, health disparities, and environmental hazards.

I would like to see rooftop gardens, more open space that encourages community involvement and interaction. I would love to see more community owned businesses and developments that are not just okayed by the powers that be but by the people of that community. I would love to see more socially-conscious products and establishments in Dorchester. I would love to see farmers’ markets in every neighborhood of Boston. I would also ask that the Southeast Expressway or any major highways or roads (i.e. Blue Hill Avenue) find ways to take cars off the road either by mass transit or by putting them underground.

And I would love to see renewable energy become affordable for all residents, but in the meantime education on how community members can organize energy co-ops.

I believe to gain any support for these initiatives we must raise awareness. People are worried about a hot and crazy summer, because there are not enough youth jobs. The real goal should be to create sustainable jobs for people in these communities so that they can provide for themselves and loved ones in the right way. Green jobs are a way out of poverty and can solve many of the problems facing urban neighborhoods.

—Wadi Muhammad, green job advocate, UMass-Boston student, born and raised on Intervale Street

Green locally and politically

In the year 2050, Boston’s transportation system will focus on moving people—not just moving cars. Other cities throughout the world will look to Boston as an example of forward-thinking transportation policies.

The Silver Line will be more than an expensive, glorified bus route. It will be a real light-rail line. The Fairmont-Indigo Line will be a reality. Dorchester Avenue will be a haven for small business, pedestrians, bikes, and public transportation—with far fewer cars and far more people. At least once a year, our streets will close to promote walking and cycling.

By 2050, our Brownfields will have become Greenfields in Savin Hill and the Bowdoin Street area. Transforming these Brownfields—abandoned, idled, or underutilized facilities that are environmentally toxic—will be an integral part of putting people to work in green, environmentally-friendly, stable and well-paying jobs.

—City Councillor Sam Yoon, Boston City Councillor

By 2050, a whole generation of local workers will have transformed Dorchester and Mattapan’s three-deckers into energy-efficient green homes. Our roofs will be alive—able to grow vegetation that improves insulation and air quality. Solar panels on houses will no longer be an exception—they will be the norm. We will be reaping the benefits of having renovated our buildings to be energy efficient during all four seasons. Converting buildings will save money every year, and we will have reinvested those dollars into our neighborhoods and our parks, providing more open space.

Not only will neighborhood farmer’s markets be booming, but residents will be growing their own vegetables in roofs, yards, and community gardens throughout our city. Childhood obesity and diabetes cases will be down, because families of all income levels have access to good, healthy food, much of it grown within our city.

Green checklist for the future of Dorchester and Mattapan:

1. Financial incentives for residents to go green and have resources like solar panels on their rooftops. Presently, these incentives exist for larger buildings but discourage smaller landlords.

2. Ten thousand green jobs for youth. Jobs to increase solar use, recycling, tree-planting, environmental education, and preserving green space.

3. Bike lanes on all major streets in the city of Boston.

4. Bike racks in congested areas with limited parking.

5. A new green building in Codman Square focused on youth enrichment and employment.

6. Roof gardens on residential homes and community gardens encouraging organic growing and sustainable foods.

7. Dependable public transportation to reduce driving and carbon footprint.

8. Police officers on foot and bikes and out of their idling cars.

9. City employees encouraged to take public transportation.

10. Children assigned to schools that are in walking distance, and school curriculum and resources improved to be more engaging and green.

11. Boston Public Schools using community gardens and local kitchens and not outsourcing, storing and transporting food from far away.

12. Restaurants and grocery stores disclosing the carbon footprint of the food they serve, meaning its process and how far the food has traveled to get to us.

13. Investment in local merchants serving healthy, local foods in comparison to large corporations that serve unhealthy processed food.

14. Recycling capacity in all public and private buildings.

15. Local newspapers highlighting green efforts and encouraging united efforts of all readers to go green.

Provided by Cynthia Loesch, president, Codman Square Neighborhood Council

Let’s Green up to stop the violence

When we asked a few of the youth involved in our urban agriculture program to write a paragraph in response to your request about a green Dorchester in 2050, I wasn’t surprised to read that everyone had a strong vision of gardens, farms, and healthy food.

One of our young people envisioned raised vegetable gardens at schools that are enhanced with agricultural classes to teach students “how the earth works.” Another saw no reason why we couldn’t have farms made up of not only vegetables, but also “cows and pigs for the kids of the community to take care of.” Many of them wrote of compost piles in every backyard, solar panels on houses and farms where corner stores that sell only junk food used to stand. All saw that the goal for these projects was to ensure that everyone in the community had access to fresh local food.

The Food Project has been working hard with our youth, neighbors, and other collaborators to make these visions a reality. Our five urban farms supply neighborhood farmers’ markets with affordable fresh foods. We are gearing up to launch a project on season extension in which we hope to begin to grow food year round, and we are building 200 raised beds for backyard gardeners and training them to grow their own food. Our young people are active partners in making this happen.

One thing that I was surprised to read among our youth responses was the link they made between this possible reality and a decrease in violence. One of our youth described the neighborhood as “more friendly and people coming together when they have problems and less shooting.” Another felt that “with more farms you have less violence,” and yet another thought that youth programs associated with neighborhood farms was important so “kids could stay out of trouble and stop the violence.” The Food Project staff members do not talk much about how or whether our programs impact our youths’ involvement in our attitude towards violence, but clearly to these young people they see a link between a greener future and a safer community.

—Danielle Andrews, urban grower for the Food Project in Dorchester

Dorchester in 2050 will definitely not be your father’s neighborhood

To paraphrase Tip O’Neil, all things are local. In 2050, food, energy, transportation and workplaces will have strong local orientations.
Dorchester will be more populous, as the suburban experiment winds down. Boston’s population will grow to 800,000 people and a significant local economy will develop as residents choose to live and work in Dorchester. Reduced travel distances will require fewer cars as people walk and bike to local stores. The mall and the big box store will be distant memories and power lines and car parking issues will seem as quaint as molasses floods and manure.

These changes will be powered, literally, by distributed energy generation systems that will be more like the Internet than your father’s energy supplier. Issues of personal energy independence will be the equivalent of today’s debate on privacy, as entrepreneurs generate and sell energy like software. This will mean a proliferation of energy producing systems in front yards, rooftops, and open space. Neighborhoods will press for energy zoning that will be tied to increased density along Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester Avenue, Washington Street, and Talbot Avenue.

Finally, rising ocean levels will turn Glover’s Corner into waterfront property, making Meeting House Hill into one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Boston. The Back Bay started to sink in 2030.

Of course, Mayor Thomas Menino will still be in office, having been virtualized back in 2015.

—Christopher Stanley, architect and Ashmont-Adams resident


Executive Director

I see in Dorchester an enormous opportunity for the young people currently in our programs to make a difference. In 2050, many of them will have progressed through successful careers in the building trades, helping rebuild Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. The surplus of young talent and innovation, along with the need to reduce energy consumption, will have led to the refurbishment of all of the inefficient, drafty homes you see now. People will not be spending so much money on energy. I believe young people in the community will leave a legacy, as their children will be in the workforce. There’s a lot of pride that comes from guiding your community forward – young people now are getting that, and their kids will have that model to follow.

GED Teacher

I would like to see the Green vision for the future of Mattapan and Dorchester addressing the air quality. I have worked in the area for over a year, and have developed new allergies and a lack of energy. Currently, inefficient buildings, cars, buses, and lack of plants contribute to the smog in the air. I look up and see a gray or purple sky, yearning for a taste of clean air.

In my vision for the future I see abandoned or inefficient buildings replaced with sustainable design. Building more intelligently will greatly improve the air quality. Polluted air going into buildings should come out purified. New construction should use materials that will reduce pollution and carbon emissions (glass over concrete). Buildings should use natural resources (collect rain water to cool the building or flush toilets). Buildings should be equipped with green roofs with plants that will purify the air. Buildings should not create trash. Buildings should create and use their own energy (solar panels, windows to allow natural light and heat in). Buildings should be designed with occupants in mind (currently I am in a building that serves as an education center, and there are no windows. This certainly doesn’t create an efficient learning environment).

Lastly, I would like to see more art and greenery coming into the area. Currently the area is covered with trash, broken glass, or graffiti. I would like to see this replaced with murals or art expressing positive feelings and plants that can be used for food or to purify the area.

YouthBuild Boston student, 19

Unity. Unity will be the difference to make it greener. People have got to come together to make it a better place.

YouthBuild Boston student, 21

There will be better fuel – not fossil fuel. It’ll be used in housing and cars, and won’t destroy the environment. There will be more trains through Dorchester. There’s a lot of space between the Red Line and the Orange Line, and no train goes there.

YouthBuild Boston student, 21

More green jobs, and less violence. If people now had something to do with their days, there wouldn’t be so much violence. By having more green jobs, you cut violence and help the environment.

To make an impact is hard here in the urban area. People just don’t care. Or, it’s not like that… it’s ‘cause they don’t know…’. Teaching about green things and the environment in the schools would help. Schools here are in bad condition. They’re falling apart, stuff dripping from the ceiling, and have old books. It’s really not healthy in there, so that needs to change.

YouthBuild Boston student, 18

There will be fewer bus stops. The bus stops every two blocks, and it uses too much gas to stop and start all the time.

YouthBuild Boston student, 22

My teacher showed me a video about the Greening of New York City. I learned that they recycle storm water and use it for flushing the toilet and to cool the buildings. I also learned that they built a green skyscraper using treated glass that reflects the heat from the sun. This is good because since they didn’t use concrete they reduced their CO2 emissions by 40 percent. I think they should make the same buildings in Boston in the future because it’s healthy for people.

Volunteer Coordinator

It’ll be at zero net energy. Buildings will use solar power – solar thermal. All the abandoned lots will be cleaned up. It would definitely be good to have all green roofs. There will be YouthBuild Boston planters in front of all the stores. But with the cleanup efforts, I see a lot more community action in the future. There has to be, so the people have a stake in the projects – it will be a much more grass roots effort. Organizations like the Food Project and YouthBuild Boston will have helped people build more raised beds, so more food will be grown locally, and they’ll help people clean up their yards and public space.

Carpentry Instructor

Public transportation needs to be fully functional and well served in the community. As the area of Dorchester/Roxbury will most likely be gentrified by then, there should be funding for this. Existing commuter rail combined with mag-lev trolleys can replace the existing bus routes, reducing congestion and pollution. Next generation low-profile windmills will be common on most commercial and some residential buildings, along with solar panels. Solar panels should line all of the train corridors. The cheapest source of heating/cooling is geothermal. Through government incentives it will be commonplace to drill wells to install these systems wherever possible.

Head GED Teacher

A light rail will be excellent. Cars are going to be gone. As a country, we need to be thinking about what happens after the automobile. There will be much more use of solar and wind power. There will be more green roofs and white roofs. There will be clustered housing around the things people need. We have to stop putting money into expanding turnpikes, and start putting it into what’s accessible for everyone.